Churu, Rajasthan

(The Forgotten Town)


On 01 Dec 2016, our team visited Churu, a small city of Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This city was explored by the tourists in Medieval time. This 400 years-old town attracts the people and the tourists from different parts of the world because of its old heritage and culture. A man named Chuharu, leader of a group, founded this city in 1620 AD and aptly named it after himself. Soon after, this city was ruled by the Rathore Rajputs of Bikaner and it became the prominent caravan route in the 18th century. The rich merchants of Churu built enchanting Havelies for their family members. Despite its rich culture and heritage, Churu is least explored by the tourists and visitors.

OUR VISITS

1. MAL JI KA KAMRA
2. TOLA RAM KOTHARI HAVELI

1. MAL JI KA KAMRA

Mal Ji Ka Kamra is one of the most beautiful buildings and old restored guest cum leisure house made by one of Churuís richest merchants Malji Kothari honored with the title of Seth. This ancient Heritage locally known as a Haveli, is the only property in town that can host visitors in comfortable luxury while taking them down memory lane of Churuís once wealthy, elite and usually conservative Marwari merchant communityís heritage.

The original structure is believed to have been constructed during 1900 to 1920, though the exact dates are unknown. The construction was completed in 20 years and during that period the parts of it were made and demolished a number of times in order to suit the ownerís savor.

The main building of Mal Ji Ka Kamra is a unique combination of Italian art Ėdeco influence, Mughal style doors and doorways together with Shekhawati style paintings. The building contains floral designs of the times when Marwaris went with the trend of great indulgence in construction worldwide in early 20th century.

We can notice two different styles from the majestic arches. The curved arches on ground floor are Mughal style where as we can notice semi-circular arches on 1st and 2nd floor which are in Venetian style. The figurines carved on each pillar are unique which depict a mixture of various cultural and religious identities.

The Haveliís pillared exteriors, a combination of Italian and Shekhawati design style blown up with stucco work of beautiful collectibles of men and women are portrayed in various dance moves showcasing a lot many evidences of the place's bygone revelry.



Clips of FRESCOS in MALJI KA KAMRA

Interestingly, one can notice that the Frescos in Churu donít just fix to conventional or bureaucrat themes of utmost relevance as it seems that the Seths had let the local artisans paint whatever they had in their mind on the basis of their visits in Europe and other places. The artisans painted luxury cars, a game of chess or women having high tea.

Present Status

The present owner of this building is Mr. Anand Balan. The building has become a favourite place for visitors

because of its artistic construction. The building is still in a very good condition as lime stone is used in its construction. There are approximately 110 gates and windows. Traviate and arcuate technique is used in construction. There is a room on the first floor which is beautifully decorated with Fresco. Makhan Lal (painter) used indigo paints to decorate the walls and ceiling. The Frescos particularly depict Hindu mythology. Despite being the heritage of India, no help has been provided by any NGO or Indian government so far.

THE RESTORATION WORK AT MAL JI KA KAMRA

The credit of restoration work goes to Mr. Anand Balan, a lawyer by profession, who overtook the premises in 2004.Unmanned and unmaintained, it was crumbling and in total disarray when he took it up for restoration. He was financially assisted by Mr. Ranjitmal Kothari, a chartered accountant by profession and dwelling in Kolkata, with whom it was bought in partnership. The duo started the work by getting the legal and physical possession of the premises from multiple owners and occupants, which itself took almost a year due to complicated nature of ownership in ancestral properties. The restoration work which ensued took several years and was only completed by mid-2012. Interestingly, father of Mr. Anand Balan, Shri Pemaram Ji, used to work as house help and took care of Malchand Kothariís kids during his adolescent years in the very same place (1930ís). Thus, it is a matter of great satisfaction and pride to bring this place back to life and host guests here. Currently, it is managed by the next generation who are leading the efforts to showcase Churuís forgotten legacy to visitors as well as to generate awareness amongst locals towards preservation.

2. Tola Ram Kothari Haveli

Tola Ram Kothari Haveli is also situated in Jain Market Churu which used to be the residence of Kothari

Clips of Frescos in TOLRAM HAVELI, CHURU, RAJASTHAN

family. The building was constructed more than 100 years ago. Only arcuate style is used in its construction. More than 108 doors are there in this Haveli. Pillars are covered by a large layer of Shimla. There is a great statue of Tola Ram Kothari in this Haveli which was built by Mal Chand Jangir. Mal Chand Jangir was awarded by Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for this great artistic work. The theme of the Fresco is Ė religious mythology. The wood of Sheesam and Teak is used for wood work in the Haveli. Rachna Kothari is the present owner of this Haveli.

PRESENT STATUS :

At present the Haveli is in a good condition. The colours and pictures are still very attractive. The main owners have shifted to Calcutta for their business purpose. There are many successors of the main owner thatís why no one is too much interested in procurement of the Haveli and Frescos. There is currently no legislation to protect the buildings and art. The government has initiated for the restoration but this effort of government was simply denied by the owners under the impression that after restoration work the government could undertake the Haveli. Ms. Rachna Kothari tells that no help has been provided by the government to preserve and conserve this precious heritage.

SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS ASPECTS :

Tola Ram Ji Kothari Haveli was basically used for residential purpose only. The main constructor and the painters were Muslims. The painters chose the topics for Frescos from the mythological and religious themes basically from the life of Krishna and Rama. Some of the paintings are also taken from the British style which clearly depicts the British impact.

The painters often drew choosing from their environs, depicting farmers at work, folk drawing water from well, potters, goldsmiths, sword smiths, carpenters and, occasionally, masons building and painting walls. Domestic and wild animals, birds and plants are commonly depicted.

FRESCOS OF HAVELI AND IMPACTS OF BRITISH ERA :

The main theme of the Frescos of these Havelies is mythological. The main walls of the buildings are painted with pictures of Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva. Some of the depictions are related to the incarnations of Vishnu. Out of these mythological pictures, there are some interesting pictures like a policeman, a man wearing hat and some examples of the impact of British rule. The main attraction of this building is the picture of a train which is related to the Mughal and British Era.

PROBLEMS AND CAUSES OF DECAYING :

Towards the mid 20th century, the merchants of this area were highly attracted by the urban influence and they decided to settle themselves in the atmosphere of cities. So, leaving behind their priceless heritage and homeland, they migrated to other places for business. Now the successor of these merchants seldom visit their ancestral place either to perform rituals or for charity purpose. Investing in industry, some of these families have become the richest in India. They locked, rented out or neglected their Havelies and Cenotaphs (Chattries). Wells have been superseded by hand-pumps later by tap water. Buildings are deteriorated, withered or demolished to make way for some new structure. Old paintings are replaced by inferior new work.

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